Tag Archives: Sydney

The Political Enlightenment: A View from the South

Professor Akeel Bilgrami will be presenting a seminar on Monday May 30th at 2 pm in Building 10, level 14, room 201

In this lecture Akeel Bilgrami will consider the ideals of the political Enlightenment from a more distant perspective than their framework allows, first by diagnosing some of their vexed limitations and then reconfiguring them with resources not obviously available in that framework

Professor Bilgrami is the Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University and Faculty member of the Committee on Global Thought. His books include Belief and Meaning (Blackwell, 1992), Self Knowledge and Resentment (Harvard University Press, 2006), Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment (Harvard University Press, 2014).  He is currently working on two books to be published in the very near future, one called What is a Muslim? (Princeton University Press) and another on Gandhi’s philosophy, situating Gandhi’s thought in seventeenth century dissent in England and Europe and more broadly within the Radical Enlightenment and the radical strand in the Romantic tradition (Columbia University Press).

The call from South symposium – Slow down!

The Epistemologies of the South symposium was held at Sydney University on 14 April. It received an extraordinary response.  Some of the sessions were standing room only.

The event was convened by Raewyn Connell and Fran Collyerto bring  together of scholars in the social sciences interested in the status of knowledge production in the South.  The morning included brief presentations from Maggie Walter, Vera Mackie, Helen Gardner, Devleena Ghosh and myself. We also heard from those involved in the Arenas of Knowledge project (João Maia, Robert Morrell, Vanessa Watson, Patrick Brownlee and Beck Pearse), a collaboration between Brazil, South Africa and Australia to map social science publishing in the South.

The rest of the day involved group sessions and plenaries where experiences of working in the South were shared. “Speaking bitter thoughts” was encouraged as a way of understanding the experience of working in the university environment, particularly for indigenous peoples (this reflected the People’s Tribunal in Melbourne).

There were many interesting discussions about the knowledge terrain of the South. The universal nature of English in scholarly publishing was seen by many as inevitable, but it was felt that there should be more allowance for the difficulty faced by second-language speakers and for concepts that were not easily translated. The economic challenge for poorer Southern countries of subscribing to scholarly journals was also mentioned. While there are Open Source alternatives for publication, the unpaid labour in maintaining these needs recognition as part of academic work.

More generally, there was broad discussion about the overall framework of knowledge production. The accepted capitalist model of knowledge accumulation through data extraction and publication output was questioned. This seemed to leave little time to reflect on what is learnt. It also does not accommodate indigenous practices, which focus more on the reproduction of knowledge as a form of stewardship. Reflecting the work of Unaisi Nabobo Baba on silence, there was discussion about the importance of listening as a scholarly modality. Overall, there was a feeling that knowledge in a  southern context should involve a quality of slowness that engages with the social relations at play.

Raewyn Connell felt the event had fulfilled its aims:

I was very pleased at the way the national symposium brought together different generations of scholars, and people working in different traditions of knowledge and thought.  Good discussions went on right through the day, and I’m hopeful that many links have been made that will energise this major re-thinking of social knowledge.

Critically, the symposium resolved to establish a mailing list so that the participants can organise future events that will continue these conversations. It will be interesting to see how these conversations develop. The academic machine offers a ready-made system for accumulating knowledge in professional journals. How might an archive of southern knowledge be designed?

Epistemologies of the South (Sydney 14 April 2016)

Epistemologies of the South

Epistemologies of the South

Epistemologies of the South: Mapping new directions in Australian social sciences

When: 9:00am – 5:00pm, Thursday 14 April 2016
Venue: Conference Room, 174 City Rd, Darlington Centre, University of Sydney

• Raewyn Connell
• Fran Collyer
To RSVP, please contact: Rebecca Pearse rebecca.pearse@sydney.edu.au

Calls to decolonize the social sciences have raised questions about the global and national politics of knowledge, the shifting structures of knowledge production, and the capacity of existing social theory to explain the world. At present, the place of Australian social science in the global postcolonial knowledge project is unclear. This workshop will bring together scholars developing postcolonial and Southern perspectives in the social and political sciences. The event will be an important moment in the development of Australian social science agendas that challenge Eurocentricism and carve out new directions for theory and research. Across the day, there will be focused discussion about current and future possibilities for research and collaboration.

The workshop is a free event. ECRs and HDR students are invited to apply for travel funding. Please send your CV and 200 word expressions of interest before 15 December 2016 to:  fran.collyer@sydney.edu.au

Connell’s farewell lecture: The knowledge industry and counter-power

In this anti-inaugural lecture, Raewyn will explore the classic problem of the relationship between intellectuals and power.  She will discuss the changing shape of knowledge systems and professional work, explore the tensions in the contemporary knowledge industry, and propose democratic agendas for intellectual workers.  All in forty minutes!

Professor Raewyn Connell, BA (Melb), PhD (Syd), holds a University Chair in the University of Sydney. She has previously held posts at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Macquarie University in Sydney, and Flinders University in Adelaide. She has held visiting posts at the University of Toronto, Harvard University, and Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

Raewyn is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, a recipient of the American Sociological Association’s award for distinguished contribution to the study of sex and gender, and of the Australian Sociological Association’s award for distinguished service to sociology in Australia. Raewyn’s teaching fields have included general sociology, social theory, sociology of education, gender relations, sexuality, and research methods.

Raewyn’s work is widely cited in social science and humanities publications internationally. Four of her books were listed among the 10 most influential books in Australian sociology. She is frequently invited to give keynote addresses at conferences and seminars, including events in Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Senegal and Britain.

Event details

  • When:5.00pm – 6.30pm
  • Where:The Great Hall
    The Quadrangle
    The University of Sydney
    University maps
  • Cost:Free and open to all with online registration requested
  • RSVP:Register online now by entering your details at the bottom of the page. Click ‘register’ once and wait for the screen to refresh. You will receive a confirmation email in your inbox shortly after.
  • Contact:Sydney Ideas
    E| sydney.ideas@sydney.edu.au
    T| 9351 2943

Paradise is here: Dreams of the inner-west

Photo: Gary Warner

Photo: Gary Warner

“Passion for the land where one lives is the foundation of belonging and is an action we must endlessly risk.” Eduoard Glissant

Previous roundtables explored strategies for countering the commodification of art through the practices of the gift and openness. The Sydney roundtable brought together artists and writers who have an interest in local context. In a peripheral country such as Australia, the international stage beckons as a recognition of worthiness. The goal was to propose how the local might be represented without seeming parochial.

It was the evening of Bloomsday, an international celebration of locality in space and time, marking the day’s journey through Dublin. The discussion was located in Addison Road Centre, a long-established precinct for cultural activity in the inner-western suburb of Marrickville. The various tenants there, representing diverse ethnic backgrounds and scavenging economies, reflect an local resilience.

The participants focused particularly on the understanding of place as a key goal. One aspect  involves knowledge of local plants, particularly their names and how they might be used in cooking and/or medicine. The process of gathering this knowledge draws on the different cultures that inhabit this place, which have alternative ways of using what can be found. Underpinning this is a belief that paradise is here on earth.

A number of shared opinions underpinned this focus on place.

Post-colonial guilt is no longer useful. It has the effect of alienating us from place. Respectful acknowledgement of traditional ownership should not stop us embracing our responsibility for looking after our part of the world.

An important means of gaining local knowledge is walking. Walking not only helps us discover the local, it connects disparate elements together through experience. Walking need not only be an individual action, it can also include collective actions such as parades and marches.

The challenge emerges of how to locate this local. Within the concentric context of the ‘international’, the local is inferior. The local is less advanced and less informed than the metropolitan centre.

Within the perspective of Southern Theory, the local acknowledges its dependence on context, whereas the metropolitan centre presumes a universalism that denies its own locality.

One proposal to explore this perspective is to find a way of linking localities together that is not hierarchical. Working at the level of council, there is potential to activate connections between suburbs similar to Marrickville in Sydney, such as Brunswick in Melbourne and Tlalpan in Mexico. Similar processes of place-making such as foraging should be undertaken in different geographically distant localities. The results could then be shared. The common experience offers a sense of solidarity to counterbalance the centripetal pull of the metropolis.

There is potential to formalise this into an event like a locally distributed biennale. This would involve identifying a specific time period in which events would occur and be shared between different places. Alternatively, it may be possible to consider connections  based on contrast, such as the different political orientations of Sydney’s Marrickville and North Shore.

Questions which arise from this idea include:

  • What activities of place-making might be shared between different localities?
  • How do you prevent the focus on local becoming insular, consolidating common values while excluding difference?

The idea of a rhizomic biennale is now open for future development.


Is art beyond borders?

The call to boycott the Sydney Biennale has brought up larger questions about the governance of border control in Australia. The following video by Crossborder Operational Matters argues that Australia is currently a proving ground for techniques of refugee control.  It claims that Australia’s policy of mandatory detention has now been exported to other countries, including China and Israel.

transfield and the sydney biennale from Beyond Borders on Vimeo.

The situation has resonance with latest developments in Southern Theory.

Raewyn Connell’s latest article (with Nour Dados) in Theory and Society  ‘Where in the world does neoliberalism come from?’ pursues her interest in Southern Theory to consider the impact of a perceived Northern ideology of economic rationalism. Rather than passive victim, they argue that the South is an active agent for neoliberalism, responding with a growth in the informal economy that was not part of the original plan. The breakthrough in their article is to identify a need to account for the role of implementation in understanding the effects of global ideologies. Though the Naomi Klein narrative of poorer countries persecuted by the ‘Chicago boys’ seems to champion the interests of the South, it still goes not account for the South’s own role in this, beyond the political elites.

Connell and Dados are critical of the way standard accounts of neoliberalism focus on financialisation rather than trade:

This problem is connected with the habit in analyses of neoliberalism, noted earlier in this article, of separating the theory from the practice, and treating the making of market society on the ground as the (imperfect) enactment of a pre-formed ideological template. This is particularly unfortunate when thinking about neoliberalism in the global South, as it downplays the agency of Southern actors in the formation of the neoliberal order.

Crossborder Operational Matters go further to argue that practices forged in the South can then have an influence in the North. In a similar fashion, the Comaroffs’ Theory from the South argues that the North is now following an African model, entailing corruption and state privatisation.

But is this relevant to art? Sydney Biennale curator Juliana Engberg confesses to a Scandinavian humanism: ‘I’m not a sledgehammer curator. I don’t like didactic much; politics is best encountered through storytelling.’ Yet in studiously avoiding didacticism, Engberg has created a vacuum that other politics will come to fill. Inadvertently, the Biennale has now become a forum for discussion Australia’s role as a pioneer in border protection through exemplary cruelty.



  • Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. 2011. Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America Is Evolving Toward Africa. Paradigm Publishers.
  • Connell, Raewyn, and Nour Dados. 2014. “Where in the World Does Neoliberalism Come From?” Theory and Society: 1–22.

Indigenous Knowledges in Latin America and Australia conference

Please note the upcoming Symposium that SURCLA is organising: Indigenous Knowledges in Latin America and Australia | Locating Epistemologies, Difference and Dissent | December 8-10, 2011.

The symposium will bring together Indigenous educators and intellectuals from Mexico, Argentina and Chile to Sydney to meet with interested Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators, scholars and activists, as well as non-Indigenous practitioners and allies, to discuss different models and approaches of Indigenous Knowledges and Education in the tertiary sector and beyond.

This project aims at helping educators and researchers in the Higher Education sector of Australia and Latin America to identify opportunities for integrating in their research and teaching and learning relevant aspects of Indigenous Knowledges in the areas of culture, education and sustainability.

Apart from the symposium itself, academic publications, public lectures by distinguished visitors and the creation of a website, the project will stimulate debate on Indigenous Knowledge and film production in Latin America and Australia by hosting film screenings on the topic.

For more information, visit the website.